The Harry S. Truman carrier strike group is heading to the battlefield in the most challenging security environment the world has seen in decades, the Navy's top officer told the carrier's crew Thursday.
"It is hard to imagine how in-demand you are right now around the world," said Adm. John M. Richardson, chief of naval operations, in a closed-circuit TV address. "It is a completely uncertain world right now. Things are changing by the minute and the challenges you face, the complexity you face, the uncertainty you face, is probably higher than it's been in the past 20-25 years."
Richardson, along with Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael D. Mike Stevens, visited the Truman on its way over the Atlantic heading towards the fight with the Islamic State group. The Truman deployed just days after the Paris attacks that took the lives of 129 people and opened what many analysts are calling a new chapter in the fight with the jihadi group in Iraq and Syria.
Richardson praised the crew for its success in hurried deployment work-ups. Truman took the place of the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, when Ike was delayed getting out of the shipyard.
Despite the hurry-up offense, the Truman is ready for the fight, Richardson said.
"I tell you one thing:, Tthis team, this Truman Strike group, is ready to go," he said. "You are well-lead, from the top of the strike group, all the way down. You know that part of that training has been to make yourself a full-on naval professional, a warrior in every respect, an ambassador of the United States."
"Our allies are waiting for the assurance that you bring," Richardson said. "And for anyone who would want to take us on, there could be no worse nightmare than being inside the crosshairs of the Harry S. Truman strike group."
As the Truman steams towards the fight, leaders in the Pentagon, the Middle East and in Europe are debating whether to strike at the Islamic State groupISIS in Syria, joining the French carrier Charles de Gaulle in the Eastern Mediterranean for some period of time, or to have Truman proceed through the Suez Canal and head to the Persian Gulf.
Such a decision would have to be made by the Secretary of Defense. U.S. Central Command has been without a carrier since mid-October, when the carrier Theodore Roosevelt departed for its new home port of San Diego.
In addition to addressing the crew, Stevens and Richardson participated in a frocking ceremony, and toured the ship, visiting work centers and chatting with sailors.
One sailor said that being frocked by the CNO and MCPON was a special moment.
"Having your hard work and diligence pay off through advancement is definitely a blessing, but having the CNO and MCPON participate in the ceremony was icing on the cake," said Electrician's Mate 1st Class M. Reiner in a Navy release. "Today has definitely been one of those once-in-a-lifetime days in my Navy career that I won't forget."